Nov 16, 2021 - Business

Accelerating minority entrepreneurship

Pattern of briefcases in different skintones.

Maura Losch/Axios

Black business owners, and entrepreneurs from other marginalized communities, have a resource in Bentonville to help improve and grow their businesses.

What's happening: 21 entrepreneurs from across the U.S. graduated from Venture Noire's accelerator program, the organization will announce today.

Why it matters: A healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem can help sustain an area's economy by creating jobs, elevating standards of living and supporting other businesses.

  • And building support networks for Black entrepreneurs — and for others from communities that have been marginalized — increases the diversity of thought and experiences to the business community.

The big picture: Entrepreneurs from these communities struggle disproportionately with debt and raising capital for operational expenses. Venture Noire estimates only 1% of venture capital goes to entrepreneurs of color.

  • According to McKinsey & Co., only 4% of Black-owned businesses in the U.S. survive the startup stage, although 20% of the Black community start businesses.
  • As of 2002, the most recent data available, minority-owned businesses in Arkansas received only 2.5% of all business in the state, despite making up nearly 16% of the state's population.

Flashback: The organization was founded by Keenan Beasley out of a Brooklyn apartment about 18 months ago with a hope to drive more investments in Black businesses and for entrepreneurs from other marginalized communities, he tells Axios.

  • "It was really a chance to create an ecosystem of Black entrepreneurs," he says.
  • The Walton Family Foundation provided Venture Noire a $1.3 million grant in March to launch its eight-week accelerator program.

How it works: Entrepreneurs apply to participate in the free accelerator program, called In the Black. Those chosen receive mentorship, public relations consulting, lab time, office space, up to an estimated value of $150,000, Beesley said.

  • "The first step is what we call self-mastery: It's understanding and addressing the gap in confidence that a lot of entrepreneurs of color have versus their white counterparts," Beesley says.

The graduates: These entrepreneurs make up Venture Noire's first two cohorts.

● Kevin Bass — Bass Graphics, media in Little Rock, Arkansas

● Ayana Baraka — Edamame Films, media in West Orange, New Jersey

● Deven D. Chambers — Deven D. Chambers Consulting, consulting in Fayetteville, Arkansas

● Shamirra Clark — Richie Clark Clothing, fashion in Little Rock, Arkansas

● Patrice Cunningham — Tae-Gu Kimchi, food in Washington, D.C.

● Jannae Gammage — The Market Base, Inc., marketing in Kansas City, Missouri

● Juaquan Herron — Venboo, technology in Kansas City, Missouri

● Camille Martin — Seaspire Skincare, skincare in Cambridge, Massachusetts

● Kenyata Martin — Masterpiece, men's grooming in Chicago

● Kevin Mobolade — Swipe Credit, financial technology in Atlanta

● Ade Mojinson — Nudx, technology in Doral, Florida

Da’Shena Payne CAGED, cosmetics in Sacramento, California

● Niketa Reed — AR Got Soul, media in Northwest Arkansas

● Shevanne Robinson — I Love This Bod, health and wellness in Brooklyn, New York

● Spade Robinson — Atlanta Film Project, media in Atlanta

● April Roy — Fempaq, health and wellness in Bentonville, Arkansas

● Chasma Smith — Try x Conquer, health and wellness in San Francisco/Oakland, California

● Hafisa Steinbrecher — HS Products, technology in Bentonville, Arkansas

● Nicole Winstead — Woofcat, pet products in Little Rock, Arkansas

● Sherika Wynter — T|W Tote, fashion in Riverdale, Maryland

● Kesha Zaffino — Zaffino Law, law in Bentonville, Arkansas

What to watch: The graduates will present pitches to potential investors on December 4. The event is virtual but hosted in Bentonville.

  • Beesley says the application process for the next two cohorts, which he tentatively plans to focus on financial technology and consumer packaged goods, should begin in early 2022.

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